Friday, September 09, 2005

Random Apple Bugs...

Interesting flaws, especially UI flaws, in Mac software are rare enough that they're worth noting. I recently ran into two of them.

My wife was trying to export a large group of photos from iPhoto (aside: she was using "export" because the "burn CD" feature isn't advised if the CD is meant to be read on windows. I thought we outgrew os-specific removable media a decade ago).

So, every time she tries to do the export, we get an error message about "there is not enough space available". That's crap -- the finder ui reports 12 GB of free space, and she's only trying to export 100 mb of data. We do the obligatory Google search for the error message.

The only hit is on some message board, and it's talking about a bug that's supposedly already fixed in our version of iPhoto. We try the suggested workaround for kicks, and, no surprise, it doesn't apply.

Eventually I have the inspiration to empty the trash and try again. Aha! Now we have enough space. But the finder ui does nothing to hint us toward looking at the trash.

OK, the problem is solved, but why should we have wasted our time on this? A few simple fixes would make the whole situation a lot easier to resolve:

1. When you report that you don't have enough space, tell the user how much you think you have and how much you think you need. More generally, if you have an error condition because X is less than Y, report your perceived values of X and Y.

2. When you report any resource as available, make some kind of modification to your message if the resource isn't completely available. Banks have long since mastered this style of reporting, maybe we can learn a thing or two from them.

The second of my two recent interface flaws is even harder to excuse. It's actually so bad that I've considered not posting about it here, because I can hardly believe I'd be able to reproduce it. Still:

I use the iLife Backup app. It seems decent enough, and it's definitely better than anything I ver found on windows. But the last time I did a backup, I wanted to be really sure that it had completed successfully. When it looked as though it had finished, I checked all the 'last backed up' times. And they hadn't been updated from the prior backup. Clearly, my backup had failed! So, I ran the backup again. And the 'last backed up time' still hadn't updated.

This is where I had my flash of insight, and closed the backup app. Aha! Upon reopening it, the 'last backed up' timestamp now reflected the backup I had just done. To be clear: the software was doing everything except confirming for me that it had actually backed up my software. Gah!

For the most part, the folks in Cupertino have user interaction down pat; like I said, that's what makes it interesting to note these flaws.

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